On the heels of last week's theatrics - an expansion draft and the two-day entry draft amid a flurry of trades - the NHL is set to enter its free-agency period. Below, in no particular order, theScore breaks down the five most interesting teams heading into free agency, which starts Wednesday at 12 p.m. ET.
NHL players signed for 2021-22: 18
Remaining cap space: $30.7 million
Let's put aside the outsized expectations created by the Golden Knights' astonishing debut season and concentrate exclusively on the Kraken and how they can chart their own path as a salary cap era expansion club.
Here's what we've learned so far about the team and its roster:
GM Ron Francis was conservative during the expansion draft, for the most part choosing financial flexibility and youth over big contracts and names. Stunningly, he's made just one trade (Tyler Pitlick to Calgary).
Assuming top prospect Matthew Beniers doesn't earn a full-time NHL job in the fall, Seattle's roster lacks a top-six center and it's generally low on offensive firepower. The Kraken don't necessarily need another NHL goalie, though they are certainly banking on potential with their current duo. They are likely OK on the back end, with a respectable group of defensemen under team control for the inaugural season and beyond.
Francis has ownership approval to spend to the upper limit in Year 1.
All of that considered, there's no way Francis remains conservative the rest of the summer … right? Even if Seattle's playing the long game (i.e. avoiding onerous contracts in an effort to build a sustainable winner), Francis has tons of cap space left for the 2021-22 season and a handful of roster spots to fill.
Of course, having cap space doesn't mean Francis should be offering blank checks to free agents. Still, whatever money isn't used in a given season is gone forever since GMs can't roll over unused cap space to a new year. So Francis, with $30 million at his disposal, is in a fascinating position.
Does he make a splash by reeling in a top-tier unrestricted free agent and franchise building block like Dougie Hamilton or Gabriel Landeskog? Should we start including Seattle as a potential destination for superstar Sabres center Jack Eichel? How about an offer sheet for stud Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech or 21-year-old Hurricanes sniper Andrei Svechnikov?
Francis could also take the route of signing multiple middle-tier UFAs to short-term, big-money deals. Goalie Frederik Andersen and forwards Jaden Schwartz, Mike Hoffman, and Brandon Saad could be fits in that respect.
Or, Francis could limit his offseason spending and act as a cap-space lifeline for the teams who will inevitably find themselves in a midseason bind. The possibilities are truly endless for the Kraken.
NHL players signed for 2021-22: 11
Remaining cap space: $38 million (with Jack Eichel on IR)
The Sabres are interesting in a much different way.
Kevyn Adams has been one of the league's busiest GMs over the past week, most notably shipping first-line forward Sam Reinhart to Florida and polarizing defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to Philadelphia. Those two trades netted two players (goalie Devon Levi and defenseman Robert Hagg) and three premium draft picks (first-rounders in 2021 and 2022, and a second-rounder in 2023).